Sen. Carper, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Study, Address How Social Inequities Impact Health in Communities of Color

Senators Say Factors Like Lack of Housing, Hunger, Unemployment, and Education

Have Far More Impact on Health than Availability of Medical Care and Treatment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined his colleagues to introduce legislation that examines the impact factors like unemployment, hunger, lack of affordable housing, and education have on Americans’ health —  especially in communities of color. The legislation, introduced on Wednesday, is designed to study the role these “social determinants” play in exacerbating health inequities and to invest in addressing them.

The Senators said that medical treatment accounts for only 10 to 20 percent of an individual’s overall health, while other social determinants of health (SDOH) account for the other 80 to 90 percent. Their Improving Social Determinants of Health Act of 2020 would authorize the Centers for Disease Control to begin work on improving health outcomes and reducing inequities by investing in the efforts of the federal government, and of public health agencies and community organizations to address the adverse impact of SDOHs.

You can read more about the bill here.

“Delawareans working on our front lines – our health care workers, police, teachers, paramedics, and so many of our non-profits organizations that advocate for our communities – know that medical care is just one piece of puzzle when it comes to determining health care outcomes. Not having enough food or easy access to food, a safe home, a job, or reliable transportation impacts every member of that family and every aspect of their life – including their health,” said Senator Carper. “Unfortunately, communities of color are too often impacted more than others. It’s past time we examine these social determinants of health in order to better understand how must address them.”

“It’s striking how poor health outcomes—especially in communities of color—are exacerbated not only by a lack of medical care, but more importantly by living without a safe place to call home, a job that supports a family, good schools, and enough food on the table,” said Senator Smith. “Far too often our communities of color are hit hardest by these inequities and we’ve seen how that has adversely impacted them during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure I’m introducing with Senator Chris Murphy would seek to better understand how we can address these social determinants to improve the health of families and communities.”

“COVID-19 has taken a particularly horrific toll on communities of color. It’s exposed the structural inequities ingrained in our health care system and should be a wake-up call to fix these injustices—fast. People of color already have a hard time accessing quality health care, affordable housing, and healthy food in their communities—otherwise known as social determinants of health—and are hardest hit by growing levels of poverty and unemployment,” said Sen. Murphy. “I’m teaming up with Senator Smith to introduce legislation that begins to address these health disparities by providing grants to local groups that are working together to better health outcomes for those in need.”

The measure, endorsed by more than 195 organizations across the country, would authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a program to improve health outcomes, reduce health inequities, and improve capacity of public health agencies and community organizations to address SDOHs. This legislation will:

  • Coordinate across CDC to ensure programs consider and incorporate social determinants of health in grants and activities.
  • Award grants to state, local, territorial, and Tribal health agencies to address social determinants of health in target communities.
  • Award grants to nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education to conduct research on best practices for addressing the social determinants of health.
  • Coordinate, support, and align social determinant of health activities at the CDC with other federal agencies.
  • Collect and analyze data related to social determinant of health activities.
  • Authorize $50 million annually for program activities.

Sen. Carper joined Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Angus King, (I-Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in co-sponsoring the legislation.